In 2010, the McHi Bulldogs were the dominating baseball team of the Valley. Backed by strong pitching, the Bulldogs ruled District 30-5A, positioned themselves as one of the top teams in the state, and then made a solid run to the regional semifinals.
In 2011, however, it may be the Sharyland Rattlers who are the Valley's most dominating team. Bart Bickerton's ball club is currently 20-1 overall, 6-0 in district and ranked no. 5 in the latest Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. Among the top ten, Shary possesses the best record of any of the teams.
Of course this isn't coming just out of nowhere. Bickerton has been building a powerhouse on Shary Road for a while now and there are numerous returning starters from last year's three-rounds-deep team.
Anytime you lose key pitchers, your shortstop and other key players, a flag of concern should be raised. Gone from last year are pitchers Baylr Bickerton and Mike Medrano, and fielders Casey Klein, Alex Luna, David Lugo, Jared Denta, Israel Flores, Martin Trevino, Mike Smedley and Francisco Medrano. Yet this year's version hasn't missed a beat and is beating ever faster. Sophomore Francisco Martinez and senior Roy Ortiz have stepped in admirably on the mound. Martinez leads the team in wins with five, while Ortiz follows the youngster with three.
As for scoring runs, the Rattlers have proven they are more than capable, as they have scored more than 10 runs in thirteen of their twenty games. In fact, in district they the squad is averaging 12.5 scores.
The consistent pop of the bat can be attributed to the stellar play of Shary's returning top hitters Oscar Gonzalez, Eric Gutierrez and Brian Valencia. Gonzalez leads the team in runs and hits with 39 and 31 respectively. The senior also has 14 stolen bases for the year.
Gutierrez leads the team in batting average with a remarkable .592, as well as home runs with five. The junior Gutierrez also has 34 RBIs.
Valencia also sports a solid hitting resume with a .592 hitting percentage, 24 runs, 27 hits and 30 RBIs. All three players bat above .500.
Tonight will be a great test to see what Sharyland can do as they play none other than McHi. The Bulldogs are not as good as they were last year, but they have yet to be defeated in district and recently scored 22 runs on La Joya. Tonight the Shary boys in red have the opportunity to prove they are not only the top team in the district, but in the Valley.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.